If you have tried working in the media industry as a director, cinematographer, editor, etc. then you surely know that the industry is very unorganized. It is very hard to find a job that suits your profile. Similarly, when you work are looking for a professional to cover these jobs, it is difficult to find someone that can match your description.
Team Sociobits connected with the Founder of Crewbella, Mr. Chirag Balani, who has created a platform that aims to solve this major problem faced in the media industry. Chirag Balani is a storyteller and CEO of Crewbella who has worked in the media industry for 4-5 years. He practices his skills in the fields of Direction, Editing, Cinematography, and Writing and has worked with Dubai Expo, the Government of India, Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar, etc. Here’s what Chirag Balani told us about his startup, Crewbella:
Team Sociobits: Could you tell us a little about Crewbella?
Mr. Chirag Balani: Crewbella is a platform where anyone in this country can hire a crew for their media-related projects. For example, if a production house in Bombay wants to shoot in Assam but it’s difficult for them to hire a crew from Mumbai and take them to Assam. Then, they can directly hire from Assam. This goes similarly for TV, radio, video, films, and the events industry.
Team Sociobits: Why did you choose Crewbella to be focused on the media industry?
Founder: I am from the media industry. I have worked in the industry for the last five years and this and a problem that I was witnessing every day. So, the production house that I was working at required a different kind of crew almost on a daily basis, and every day we had hundreds of people waiting outside our offices for work. Most of them were actors but some of them were media crew and hence, my production house couldn’t connect with the crew. So, I thought that there should be a platform where people could see the profiles of every kind of crew they want to hire; They can see their skills, they can see their profession, and experience, and then they can hire. This is why I thought that the media industry will be the best because no one here is doing so.
I thought that there should be a platform where people could see the profiles of every kind of crew they want to hire; They can see their skills, they can see their profession and experience, and then they can hire.– Mr. Chirag Balani
Team Sociobits: How did you come up with the name Crewbella?
Founder: Actually, there is no logic behind it. As you see, my name is Chirag Balani and the company’s name is “CrewBella”. So, the initials are the same. Also, ‘Bala’ in ‘Balani’ means beauty, quality, or purity, and ‘Bella’ in ‘Crewbella’ has a similar meaning. So, Crew means crew, and Bella means quality; Hence, Crewbella.
Team Sociobits: How has your journey with Crewbella been?
Founder: When I first started the platform, I saw that there were already Facebook Groups doing a similar job but it was failing because Facebook Groups had thousands of people and the reach of the post was not even twenty. Let’s consider if someone wanted to hire a cinematographer in Jaipur, Rajasthan, and they post it in their group, then the probability of that post reaching a person in Rajasthan in 10,000 is less than one percent.
At Crewbella, I designed a system where, in this case, we will directly send a notification for the requirement to the cinematographers in Rajasthan. They would know that someone from Bombay wants to hire us. This is how I thought that there should be a system and we cannot rely on social media.
Team Sociobits: Can you point out any major challenge that you face and how are you tackling it?
Founder: There are specifically two challenges that I faced. One is in the technological aspect because the platform is based on a blockchain contract. Everything is made on blockchain technology which is comparatively still a new concept in India because very few developers have been able to make services and products based on it.
I saw that there were already Facebook Groups doing a similar job but it was failing because Facebook Groups had thousands of people and the reach of the post was not even twenty.
What we do is, hire a crew using a digital contract and this has to be the safest option on the internet. And if anyone is able to hack into that contract, it means the platform is not working. So, finding developers to build this technology has been really difficult and another thing is that the media industry is still corrupt when it comes to a crew. Clients do not trust the crew with their money and the crew does not trust clients with the work. The crew is afraid that the client will eat up the money and the client is afraid that if I give him the money, they will mess up the work.
Now, when someone hires through Crewbella, they get two options. First, their money is secure and their work is secure. And another thing is that you will only meet genuine clients and genuine crew because we do a background check and if either of them has been involved in some malicious activity in the past, then it will be represented on the profile. You can also see the Google Reviews of the clients and the crew. So, these are the two challenges that I am tackling.
Team Sociobits: How do you ensure monetary security to both clients and the crew?
Founder: So, let’s say you hired me to shoot this interview and I charge you Rs. 15,000 for the entire shoot. So, before hiring me, you will pay that money to Crewbella which will be shown as credits on my profile. That you have hired me for work and the amount she has paid. Then, I’ll come here and I’ll do my job, after the interview has been shot, you will have to tap ‘yes’ when the shoot is completed and I will also tap ‘yes’. Then, Crewbella will transfer that money to me. Hence, I as a crew, need not worry whether I’ll get money, and you as a client won’t be afraid because you’ll see me working.
Let’s also consider that I come here and I don’t work the way you wanted me to or I do not deliver the quality of work that I assured in my profile or in my resume. So, you can report that digital contract on Crewbella. You can upload video and photographic proofs. The platform will then analyze this and if they find out that I have not worked up to the mark, they will be returning all or a portion of the money that is required to be submitted to you.
Similarly, if I come here and I see that I am ready to work but your equipment is not up to the mark like, your camera is not working, your lights are working, etc. And you have also taken a lot of time for the shoot to begin, then I can report you on Crewbella, in turn terminating the contract. I’ll also get reimbursed for the amount of work that I have done.
Team Sociobits: What are your revenue sources?
Founder: I started Crewbella, not as a means of earning money. So, it is free for everyone to use and it is free for everyone to find crew. Only, when you make a digital contract, I charge a minimal amount. So, if you hire someone for Rs. 30,000, then I’ll only charge around Rs. 1,000 from it because maintaining, organizing, and creating a digital contract is a robust process; it requires money and that’s how I earn. So, digital contracts are my first medium of earning money and the second would be, later on, I can run ads on the platform so that I can reduce the amount that I earn from the crew and client as a commission for the digital contract.
What I have observed is that Fiverr and Upwork only help you in getting remote jobs or jobs that you can do on a computer. They do not provide on-field creators. You can find a good graphic designer, video editor, web developer, and poster designer on these platforms.
Team Sociobits: Can you also explain how are you different from other freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr?
Founder: See, what I have observed is that Fiverr and Upwork only help you in getting remote jobs or jobs that you can do on a computer. They do not provide on-field creators. You can find a good graphic designer, video editor, web developer, and poster designer on these platforms, but you won’t find a cinematographer, photographer, art director, production designer, or storyboard artist. These are the professions that require you to come to the field and work. They don’t have such systems.
Another thing is that the work is limited. So, if you type video editors for work, you will see profiles that say, ‘I will edit a one-minute video and my charge is Rs. 5,000.’ It is already fixed by the platforms. At Crewbella, the price is not fixed because we know that several projects have several other demands. So, what happens is, that a client can post, ‘I want someone to edit a video of three minutes and my budget is Rs. 15,000. The video editors can then analyze whether they are interested in doing something like this or not and apply accordingly. This way, you can find a crew based on your budget, your requirement, and your skills. It works for the crew in a similar way.
Team Sociobits: Since you were ideating Crewbella in 2017, did COVID-19 have an impact on your startup?
Founder: The pandemic is the only reason that I was able to create this platform. In 2017, I only had an idea that I need to build a community where every artist can come and share work or sell work. In 2019, when I was graduating from college, I worked for two years in Bombay in different production houses. So, I knew exactly what the problem was and what the solution was. Thanks to COVID-19 that I got two years to work on, 2020 and 2021. In those two years, I did research, and development, I made my team, I made the base, I promoted the brand, and finally, in 2022, I am ready for my app to launch for everyone to use. We have an active running website but it’s a prototype of what we do. Our final technology, the one that will be used by people effortlessly and will be free is set to launch on 15th July and all of its work was done during the pandemic only.
Team Sociobits: Currently, how many users do you have on your website?
Founder: In the last year, we have more than 6,500 registered users, out of which almost all of them have found work on Crewbella or given work through Crewbella. The website has been coordinated with our social media pages and we are posting requirements every day. Almost every day we post requirements and every day we are helping people to find the right crew. In a month, we hire 40-50 crews throughout the country.
I want my startup to fail only when the product is not good but not because of valuation or some silly investor that has huge pockets. So, I am looking for someone who can invest 5-7 years with an adequate amount of money. I do not want a billion-dollar investment.
Team Sociobits: What are your future plans? Are you looking for investments?
Founder: When I started Crewbella, it was not intended to be a profit-making startup. It was just to help the community but now when I see the market and the possibilities, I will be looking for investors that are here for the long term, for at least 5-7 years because I want to build a brand and I don’t want to create a bubble. Almost every startup today is creating a bubble, picking up valuations, burning them out, and eventually, I am afraid that it will lead to the crash of my startup. I want my startup to fail only when the product is not good but not because of valuation or some silly investor that has huge pockets. So, I am looking for someone who can invest 5-7 years with an adequate amount of money. I do not want a billion-dollar investment, I only want something that can help to gain profit for 2-3 years. And if I don’t see a profit, I don’t want to onboard investments and that is what my motive is right now.
If the app launch is successful by 15th July, I aim to cater to at least 50,000 users in the media industry by this year, while also maintaining my current crew acquisition. For example, if we manage to gather 50 crews in a month, I would want this number to stay stable. It’s good if the number grows, but I don’t want to go below this number. I don’t want to see a hike and then a low, I want to stabilize first. If I see that 100 people want to get hired but only 20 are getting hired, I would be focusing that those twenty people get an adequate amount of services from my platform and while focusing on stability, eventually I’ll grow into numbers. So, this year I am focusing on onboarding 50 crews every day or a week.
Team Sociobits: Are you looking to expand out of India?
Founder: Yes, I am looking to go out of India but the major problem is that a system is already there. They always work with contracts be it Hollywood, London, anywhere big film industry always make contracts and everyone is habitual to it. India is the only country that works with mouth publicity or on liaisoning and that is why it is needed the most in India. Of course, when I have built the technology where I can reduce the paperwork and burning of foreign film productions, I will expand it to Hollywood.
The founder of Crewbella is striving to transform to make the media industry more organized. On the other hand, this will offer many media professionals more job opportunities and offer convenience to clients.